Should I Pick A Slim-Tube Or BTE Hearing Aid?
Traditional BTE hearing aids have been around for decades. They have lasted the test of time because their classic design offers many benefits. The shell of the hearing aid houses all of it's electronics behind-the-ear, which keeps the electronics safe from ear wax and the humidity of the ear canal. It also provides the space required for larger amplifiers which services those clients with severe and profound hearing impairments.
Traditional BTE hearing aids are often the best hearing aid to select for people living with severe and profound hearing loss, effecting the low, middle and high frequency sounds. Due to the larger size of the BTE design it is also a good choice for people with dexterity and vision limitations.
Slim-Tube hearing aids are a much newer design. Known as Open-Ear hearing aids and designed in either an Slim-Tube (OE) or Receiver-In-Canal (RIC). The Slim-Tube design copies the traditional BTE design and houses all of the electronics behind the ear, while the RIC design houses the speaker inside of the ear and the rest of the electronics behind the ear.
Just like technological breakthroughs in many fields, Open-Ear, or Open-Fit hearing aids were developed out of a need to fix a problem. Perhaps the most prevalant hearing loss diagnosed today is a varied degree of senorineural high frequency hearing loss (As seen in Audiogram below).
When a traditional BTE device is used to aid this pattern of hearing loss, most hearing aid wearers will experience a varied degree of the occlusion effect
, which they will describe as making them feel "plugged up", or as though their head is stuck inside of a barrel.
This occurs because the ear canal is plugged with a custom ear mould which forces the low frequency sounds to be amplified along with the middle and high tones.
In the past hearing aid users were councelled by hearing professionals to accept the good with the bad. "Over time you will not be as bothered by the sound of your own voice" "Your voice will sound funny to you, but it's this unnatural sound quality that will allow you to hear the soft high frequency consonants in speech". These statements are true and people with high frequency hearing loss did accept all the bad with the good and successfully adjusted to BTE hearing aids.
With so many people presenting high frequency hearing loss, audio engineers sought out to develop a hearing aid that could amplify the high frequency sounds without amplifying the low frequency sounds. This is exactly what Open-Fit hearing aids accomplish. The difference in sound quality a person with high frequency hearing loss experiences between a BTE and Open-Fit style of hearing aid is very noticeable and immediate. Open Fit hearing aids accomplish a much more natural sound quality by amplifying the sound where people have impairment while allowing people to remain hearing the sounds naturally~ where they do not have hearing loss.
While both hearing aid designs serve a purpose. It is recommended that BTE hearing aids
be used for people who live with a moderate to profound hearing loss across all frequencies, or those with limited dexterity in their hands or poor vision. Open-Fit hearing aid
designs are recommended for people who live with high frequency hearing loss.
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